How to Setup and Configure an OpenVPN Server on CentOS 6
This article covers a version of CentOS that is no longer supported. If you are currently operating a server running CentOS 6, we highly recommend upgrading or migrating to a supported version of CentOS.
Reason: CentOS 6 reached end of life (EOL) on November 30th, 2020 and no longer receives security patches or updates. For this reason, this guide is no longer maintained.
This guide might still be useful as a reference, but may not work on other CentOS releases. If available, we strongly recommend using a guide written for the version of CentOS you are using.
The following DigitalOcean tutorial may be of immediate interest, as it outlines installing and configuring OpenVPN on a CentOS 7 server:
This article will guide you through the setup and configuration of OpenVPN server on your CentOS 6 cloud server. We will also cover how to configure your Windows, OS X, or Linux client to connect to your newly installed OpenVPN server.
Before we begin, you'll need to have the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) Repository enabled on your cloud server. This is a third party repository offered by the Fedora Project which will provide the OpenVPN package.
wget http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/6/i386/epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm rpm -Uvh epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm
Initial OpenVPN Configuration
First, install the OpenVPN package from EPEL:
yum install openvpn -y
OpenVPN ships with only a sample configuration, so we will copy the configuration file to its destination:
cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn-*/sample/sample-config-files/server.conf /etc/openvpn
Now that we have the file in the proper location, open it for editing:
nano -w /etc/openvpn/server.conf
Our first change will be to uncomment the "push" parameter which causes traffic on our client systems to be routed through OpenVPN.
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
We'll also want to change the section that immediately follows route DNS queries to Google's Public DNS servers.
push "dhcp-option DNS 126.96.36.199" push "dhcp-option DNS 188.8.131.52"
In addition, to enhance security, make sure OpenVPN drops privileges after startup. Uncomment the relevant "user" and "group" lines.
user nobody group nobody
Generating Keys and Certificates Using easy-rsa
Now that we've finished modifying the configuration file, we'll generate the required keys and certificates. As with the configuration file, OpenVPN places the required scripts in the documentation folder by default. Create the required folder and copy the files over.
mkdir -p /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys cp -rf /usr/share/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/* /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa
With the files in the desired location, we'll edit the "vars" file which provides the easy-rsa scripts with required information.
nano -w /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/vars
We're looking to modify the "KEY_" variables, located at the bottom of the file. The variable names are fairly descriptive and should be filled out with the applicable information.
Once completed, the bottom of your "vars" file should appear similar to the following:
export KEY_COUNTRY="US" export KEY_PROVINCE="NY" export KEY_CITY="New York" export KEY_ORG="Organization Name" export KEY_EMAIL="email@example.com" export KEY_CN=droplet.example.com export KEY_NAME=server export KEY_OU=server
OpenVPN might fail to properly detect the OpenSSL version on CentOS 6. As a precaution, manually copy the required OpenSSL configuration file.
cp /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/openssl-1.0.0.cnf /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/openssl.cnf
We'll now change into our working directory and build our Certificate Authority, or CA, based on the information provided above.
cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa source ./vars ./clean-all ./build-ca
Now that we have our CA, we'll create our certificate for the OpenVPN server. When asked by build-key-server, answer yes to commit.
We're also going to need to generate our Diffie Hellman key exchange files using the build-dh script and copy all of our files into /etc/openvpn as follows:
./build-dh cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys cp dh1024.pem ca.crt server.crt server.key /etc/openvpn
In order to allow clients to authenticate, we'll need to create client certificates. You can repeat this as necessary to generate a unique certificate and key for each client or device. If you plan to have more than a couple certificate pairs be sure to use descriptive filenames.
cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa ./build-key client
Routing Configuration and Starting OpenVPN Server
Create an iptables rule to allow proper routing of our VPN subnet.
iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s 10.8.0.0/24 -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE service iptables save
Then, enable IP Forwarding in sysctl:
nano -w /etc/sysctl.conf # Controls IP packet forwarding net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1
Finally, apply our new sysctl settings. Start the server and assure that it starts automatically on boot:
sysctl -p service openvpn start chkconfig openvpn on
You now have a working OpenVPN server. In the following steps, we'll discuss how to properly configure your client.
Configuring OpenVPN Client
Now that your OpenVPN server is online, lets configure your client to connect. The steps are largely the same regardless of what operating system you have.
In order to proceed, we will need to retrieve the ca.crt, client.crt and client.key files from the remote server. Simply use your favorite SFTP/SCP (Secure File Transfer Protocol/Secure Copy) client and move them to a local directory. You can alternatively open the files in nano and copy the contents to local files manually. Be aware that the client.crt and client.key files will are automatically named based on the parameters used with "./build-key" earlier. All of the necessary files are located in /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys
nano -w /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/ca.crt nano -w /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/client.crt nano -w /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/client.key
With our certificates now on our client system, we'll create another new file called client.ovpn, where "client" should match the name of the client being deployed (from build-key), the contents should be as follows, substituting "x.x.x.x" with your cloud servers IP address, and with the appropriate files pasted into the designated areas. Include only the contents starting from the "BEGIN" header line, to the "END" line, as demonstrated below. Be sure to keep these files as confidential as you would any authentication token.
client dev tun proto udp remote x.x.x.x 1194 resolv-retry infinite nobind persist-key persist-tun comp-lzo verb 3 <ca> Contents of ca.crt </ca> <cert> Contents of client.crt </cert> <key> Contents of client.key </key>
As all of the required information to establish a connection is now centralized in the .ovpn file, we can now deploy it on our client system.
On Windows, regardless of edition, you will need the official OpenVPN Community Edition binaries which come prepackaged with a GUI. The only step required post-installation is to place your .ovpn configuration file into the proper directory (C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config) and click connect in the GUI. OpenVPN GUI on Windows must be executed with administrative privileges.
On Mac OS X, the open source application "Tunnelblick" provides an interface similar to OpenVPN GUI on Windows, and comes prepackagd with OpenVPN and required TUN/TAP drivers. As with Windows, the only step required is to place your .ovpn configuration file into the ~/Library/Application Support/Tunnelblick/Configurations directory.
On Linux, you should install OpenVPN from your distributions official repositories. You can then invoke OpenVPN by simply executing:
sudo openvpn --config ~/path/to/client.ovpn
Congratulations! If you made it this far you should now have a fully operational VPN running on your cloud server. You can verify that your traffic is being routed through the VPN by checking Google to reveal your public IP.